The Sharing Economy

This blog is about the nuts and bolts, nitty gritty of the sharing economy, it’s implications and ramifications as a new paradigm for society and the work world….This is indeed a “brave new world” we are living in, one Aldous Huxley could have never dreamed of in his classic novel of the same name published in 1923…His book dealt with the spiritual and moral isolation of the period following WWI and is still relevant today…But today I am going to talk about the practical applications and the already here applications of this school of thought, about what is being dubbed in the popular media as “The Sharing Economy”…

There is an inherent contradiction here in this title, because the sharing economy is more about the cold blooded, ruthless optimization of everything around us more than about sharing per se, because almost every service a person could seek, from a car, a temporary apartment, food or finance is now available at the touch of a button….It is the logical culmination of all our newly minted cyber connectivity, and how it plays out in the real world…..Uber car sharing and rides was a pioneer in this industry…

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According to my Google sources: “The term “sharing economy” entered the American lexicon just a few years ago when a few quirky-named start ups began popping up. All were founded on the concept that people could use online tools to borrow or rent things from each other. Over the past few years, however, this sharing economy has exploded in ways that seemed unimaginable.

Concepts that were once far fetched are now among the hottest companies on the block. The $10 billion valuation of “couch surfing” platform Airbnb, for instance, means it’s now worth more than Hyatt Hotels, which had about 75,000 employees and nearly 500 hotels as of last year. Ride-hailing app Uber now offers its service in more than 130 cities worldwide and recently had a valuation of $18.2 billion—giving it the same heft as auto-rental giants Hertz and Avis.”

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After transforming or destroying, (whatever your point of view,) the publishing, television and music industries, the new technology is now zeroing in on the service sector of the economy….This revolution in thought and application in our daily lives is being mostly targeted at the young people, the “millennials,” at least that was the initial primary socio-economic target group….

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But the rapid fire explosion and success of this new way of doing thing, this radical reordering of priorities and the development of new thinking in terms of almost everything is more and more reaching a much wider mainstream audience…The whole underlying concept of the “sharing economy” is that possessions do not make us happy, experiences do! Good experiences increase happiness and contentment above and beyond mere possessions, so what we are doing is moving more to an experience economy than a possession economy…

Again, according to my Google sources: “Established sharing-economy companies are fine-tuning their business models and trying to expand in new ways, and those expansions will probably continue for at least the next few years. Already, companies like Airbnb and Uber are testing several ways to build out their services and grow.

Airbnb, for example, recently began offering a dinner-party organizing service in San Francisco, taking on smaller start ups like Feastly and Munchery that are trying to grow home- and chef-prepared meal services around the country. Uber has expressed interest in becoming a full-scale delivery service, dropping off everything from Christmas trees to online purchases for users.

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“Airbnb and Uber both also unveiled new apps for businesses. Both offerings will allow business travelers to use Airbnb or Uber when booking overnight stays or rides, respectively, but they make it easy for travelers to expense them through their corporate travel departments.“The new product is basically an acknowledgment that many consumers have been using Uber for both personal and business use cases, but their employers didn’t have a good way to manage those expenses,” wrote Ryan Lawler in a recent article on Tech Crunch about the new services.”

How about odd jobs? “Other sharing companies are also in expansion mode, but they’re focusing on making their services more user-friendly. For example, Task Rabbit, an online marketplace that connects people willing to do odd jobs with those in need of help, now has 30,000 “taskers” in 19 U.S. cities. The company recently began offering its freelance taskers discounts to health care and cellphone services and requires a base wage from customers of $11.20 per hour. It also switched from an auction-based model to one that uses automated algorithms to more intuitively connect users with taskers.”

So where are we going with all this? We are replacing the traditional jobs and possessions such as cars mentality by utilizing specific people to do the work on a limited or one time basis, each separate from but still interconnected to the main sharing bases, such as Uber…It is a new work model, and people, especially young people are willing to forgo the security, benefits and perks of a traditional 9-5 job by hiring themselves out as needed on a temporary basis…At the same time, they are freeing themselves up for more personal time, more time to travel, more time to kick back, more time to be creative....

And we have just cracked the door on this new mind set….Again, according to my Google sources: “The blockbuster success of companies like Uber and Airbnb is inspiring entrepreneurs and start ups in all realms of the U.S. economy to search for the next winning peer-to-peer business model. The challenge for these entrepreneurs will be unearthing new concepts and markets where sharing makes financial sense and where it can support a robust user base.

This growth of the sharing economy will also lead to a rise in the number of self-employed freelancers, from graphic designers and house cleaners to personal errand runners, who make a living off peer-to-peer platforms, Already, sites like Elance and Task Rabbit saw huge growth when more people needed to find work during the Great Recession. Successful employment experience with these freelance sites has encouraged more people to try their hand at freelancing full time.”

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So what will happen when the millennials grow older and want the security of a house in the suburbs and a car in the garage and medical and dental benefits? Nobody really knows right now, especially the millennials themselves…Perhaps they will make enough money on a peer to peer sharing basis to accommodate these basic human needs, or perhaps they will strike a balance between the traditional structured job, which is not going to disappear, and the new sharing economy, keeping a foot in both worlds ….

We may very well be on the cutting edge of a whole new industrial revolution, supplanting the smokestack industries and the assembly line mentalities and realities of the work world of our parents…Only time will tell; revolutionary new concepts are being dreamed up by the tech industry every day….

As Aldous Huxley said, it is indeed “A Brave New World”….

For more information about this novel concept, check out “Sharing Economy 2.0: Sharing a Peek at the Next Generation”
For more articles by John Whye, click http://www.johnwhye.com@wordpress.com

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